After 10 months, 112 games and about 80,000 miles traveled by
air -- enough to circle the earth about three times -- the Heat will play one
game Thursday for the NBA title.
No other game will be as scrutinized and dissected, which means every substitution, every adjustment and every grimace will be over analyzed, something that started Wednesday about 14 hours after Miami's historical 103-100 overtime victory over the Spurs in Game 6 on Tuesday that set up a Game 7 winner take all.
"At this point it's whatever it takes," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That may mean Heat guard Dwyane Wade gutting through two problematic knees or Spoelstra sticking to the same eight-man rotation that helped Miami survive on Tuesday.
Wade's left knee, the one that was surgically repaired last summer and not the one that has limited him since mid-March, was swollen and stiff when we awoke Wednesday.
Wade and Spurs guard Manu Ginobili banged knees early in the game with Wade in obvious pain after the collision. He needed extra treatment at halftime and remained in the locker room as the second half started, returning to the floor 2 1/2 minutes later.
"There's one game left," said Wade, who scored 14 points after totaling 57 the previous two games. "Whatever you have inside, you muster up, you give it.
"So I'll be fine."
So too will forward Udonis Haslem and point guard Norris Cole, who both did not play because of a coach's decision, the first of the year for Haslem and second for Cole.
Spoelstra, though, is not worried about bruised egos or hurt feelings.
"When you've been in enough of these battles you fully start to understand each series is its own challenge," Spoelstra said. "Things that may work in one series might not in another. And you don't have time to sit on your hands."
The beneficiaries were forwards Shane Battier and Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who along with Tuesday's hero, Ray Allen, were the only reserves to play.
Battier's 3 3-pointers Thursday equaled his output in the series entering the game. Andersen, who did not play in Games 4 and 5, provided his typical spark even before entering the game as the crowd roared when he bounced out of his seat.
"It was a great feeling, the crowd going crazy and being loud," said Andersen, who had a productive one point and four rebounds. "It fired me up."
Cole had played in all 21 playoff games, averaging 27 minutes a game. Haslem started every playoff game until Game 4 of the Finals.
"We understood once we signed up for this there were no egos attached to it," Haslem said. "It's not easy. It's tough as a competitor. We all have our time when we're called upon to be a supporting guy and (Tuesday) was my time."
This change came two games after forward Mike Miller was dusted off and inserted into the starting lineup.
Spoelstra would not commit to the same rotation for Game 7, but don't expect a drastic change.
"Next game could be different depending on how the game is played, foul situation, that type of thing," he said.
It does not sound like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's strategy will be any different for Game 7 if the Heat need a 3-point shot down the stretch.
Popovich was being questioned for the 22.3 seconds at the end of regulation that he pulled future Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan. It was during those two stints (8.1 and 14.2 seconds) that Boris Diaw was on the floor that Miami had two offensive rebounds, both leading to 3-pointers.
LeBron James' 3-pointer cut the Heat deficit to two with 20.1 seconds remaining. Allen's 3 with 5.2 second to play tied the score. That shot came after Chris Bosh secured an offensive rebound of a James miss.
Popovich refused to take blame, saying the Spurs were switching and that is more difficult with Duncan in the game.
"That's not why Miami hit the two 3s," he said. "Diaw has a little more speed than Tim Duncan, so it makes sense to have him out there reading at the 3-point line."
Popovich said two guys went to James on the switch making it easier for Bosh to get to the rebound that led to Allen's clutch shot.
"So it had nothing to do with Duncan," Popovich said tersely.
Even Duncan refused to give Bosh credit, calling the rebound a "bad bounce" for the Spurs.
"It's something we've done all year," Duncan said. "If it comes down to it again, Pop will make the call again."
Game 7s in the Finals
(Bold: denotes road team victory)
2010: L.A. Lakers 83, Celtics 79
2005: Spurs 81, Detroit Pistons 74
1994: Rockets 90, Knicks 84
1988: Lakers 108, Pistons 105
1984: Celtics 111, Lakers 102
1978: Bullets 105, SuperSonics 99
1974: Celtics 102, Bucks 87
1970: Knicks 113, Lakers 99
1969: Celtics 108, Lakers 106
1966: Celtics 95, Lakers 93
1962: Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT)
1960: St. Louis Hawks 97, Minneapolis Lakers 86
1957: Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2OT)
1955: Syracuse Nationals 92, Ft. Wayne Pistons 91
1954: Lakers 87, Nationals 80
1952: Lakers 82, Knicks 65
1951: Rochester Royals 79, Knicks 75
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